In an embarrassing turn of events, Argentine officials hailed the capture of three convicted murderers before discovering that only one was in custody. Authorities may have been misled to give fugitives time to escape.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Saturday congratulated the country's security forces for capturing three convicted murderers who escaped prison the day after Christmas.
However, in a surprise turn of events, the Argentine federal police chief later admitted that only one of the three fugitives were in custody, dealing a humiliating blow to Macri's month-old government.
"We're still looking for the other fugitives," said Roman di Santo, head of the Argentine Federal Police, in a statement.
Martin Lanatta, the captured escapee, was transferred from a local police station in the Santa Fe province to the nation's capital, Buenos Aires, by armed guards.
The other two escapees, Lanatta's brother Cristian and Victor Schialli, remain at large. All three men were convicted in the 2008 killing of three businessmen with ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
The high-profile case was dubbed "the triple murder," with the victims allegedly sharing links to an ephedrine trafficking ring. The drug is used for the production of methamphetamine.
Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said late Saturday that the government had been misled by erroneous information, a likely plot to buy the escapees time to evade authorities.
"There will be a full investigation into this false information, which might have been meant to give the other two time to make good on their escape," Bullrich said in a televised statement in Santa Fe.
The case also has political reverberations after one of the convicts allegedly linked a senior official to the murders.
Last year, Martin Lanatta claimed that former presidential cabinet chief Anibal Fernandez masterminded the killings of the businessmen, although she has denied the allegations. Argentine prosecutors have not pursued an investigation into the claims.
"Drug trafficking has grown in the last decade like never before in our country because of the inaction or complicity of the last government," President Macri said earlier this week after vowing to quash the trade in the South American country.
ls/cmk (Reuters, AP, EFE, dpa)